Spacelift Washington: DoD charts key space technologies needed for future development

By frank_sietzen
March 14, 2001
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Spacelift Washington

Spacelift Washingon Archive

WASHINGTON – Key crosscutting advanced space technologies have been identified by the Defense Department as part of its space technology guide released in January. The report, a survey of military space technology needs for the next decade, highlighted microsatellite technology, space launch and propulsion, and space technology demonstrations as special areas needing attention in the upcoming budget cycles.

The guide strongly urged the military to “collaborate where practical via partnerships to share costs and broaden the basis for support” for the flight tests. Space demonstrations were described as “a key part of the requisite technology application, maturation, and proof of military utility,” the report said. It listed 13 areas needing development and additional research and testing. The technologies were deemed not only critical to future military programs but many of which offered the potential for ‘dual-use’ multiple applications. Among them were:


  • Advanced cryogenics
  • Advanced solid rocket motors
  • Combined cycle engines (air breathing and rocket)
  • Electric thrusters (Hall effect, ion, plasma)
  • Solar thermal
  • High-energy, storable propellants

Thinking Satellites

  • Autonomous self-control
  • Self-assessment
  • Threat detection
  • On-board supercomputing
  • On-orbit robotics


  • Lasercom
  • Wideband microwave


  • Large, lightweight controllable and adaptive
  • Higher frequency
  • Steerable beam phased arrays
  • Higher-efficiency amplifiers

The report, and additional recommendations by it and recent defense-related space commissions, have fostered an increase in the idea of greater use of commercial space resources and research programs underway for non-military programs and products. Use of commercial assets was deemed needed not only because the private sector was developing space equipment that could be used, but because DoD R&D budgets were on the decline. Such reductions were also called threats to military space technology development.

“A focused but stable budget investment is required as a prevailing condition,” the guide said. Other key, enabling technologies listed included accelerated miniaturization to reduce vehicle development as well as launch costs. A new generation of boost and orbit transfer vehicles were also needed to fly future space demos and space payloads, defense authorities said at the time the report was released in late January.

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